The NBA will celebrate its 75th anniversary next season. The world's premier basketball league has a rich history, bearing witness to some highly decorated organizations and players. Every era has had its greats, but who stands out from the crowd? It's a near-impossible decision to make, and a fierce debate that continues to rage. But after taking into consideration their championship wins, stats, and overall ability on the court we hope to put this debate to rest. So, without further ado, here are the 5 greatest NBA players of all time.
Larry Bird is the perfect example of someone maximizing his potential. The Boston Celtic was never the most athletic player on the court, but he made up for this with his basketball intelligence, fierce competitiveness, and excellent skillset. These attributes made 'Larry Legend' a dominant presence on the court and he led his Celtics to an era-defining three NBA Championships. Along the way, Bird notched up three regular-season MVPs and 2 Finals MVPs. Most valuable indeed.
If we're talking longevity, then not many come close to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The dominant Los Angeles Laker competed for a staggering 20 seasons, with both the Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks. In that time, Kareem put up some serious numbers - he remains the all-time leading scorer in NBA history, he holds the award for most regular-season MVPs (six), and he made 19 All-Star appearances. Serious star power.
If ever an athlete lived up to his name, it's Magic. Johnson began his career with greatness and he never looked back. Filling in for the injured legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a rookie Magic started in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals and went on to be crowned Finals MVP. During his illustrious career, Johnson took his Los Angeles Lakers to nine Finals, winning five of them and scooping MVP in three. A towering force standing at 6'9", Magic would routinely dominate defenses with his incisive forays to the net.
There's a well-known saying in sports: defence wins trophies. Number 2 on the list was arguably the greatest defensive player to ever step foot on a basketball court. Bill Russell led his Boston Celtics to a record 11 NBA Championships, picking up 5 regular-season MVPs along the way. Given that such accolades typically go the way of showtime attacking players, it's a credit to Russell's dominance that he was crowned five times. If Michael Jordan could single-handedly win a game by shredding the opposition defence, Bill Russell could do the same to the opposing offence. What money we would have paid to have seen the two go up against each other!
Where do we even begin? Michael Jordan is widely considered one of the greatest athletes of all time - he transcended the sport of basketball and propelled its reach to the far corners of the globe. In a career like no other, MJ accomplished everything possible in the game. Jordan famously won all six of the NBA Finals his Chicago Bulls appeared in, often thanks to his own moments of magic. What makes MJ the undeniable GOAT, however, is his dominance on both sides of the ball. A true all-rounder, the 1988 season saw him win MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and the NBA's scoring title. You'd be a brave person to argue that 'Air Jordan' isn't deserving of the number 1 spot.